From the nickname of the poet Ambrose Phillips, coined by Henry Carey in 1726. [1]


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namby-pamby (comparative more namby-pamby or namby-pambier, superlative most namby-pamby or namby-pambiest)

  1. Insipid and sentimental.
  2. Lacking vigor or decisiveness; spineless; wishy-washy.



namby-pamby (plural namby-pambies)

  1. One who is insipid, sentimental, or weak.
    • 1725, Capt. Gordon [Henry Carey], Namby-Pamby: Or a Pangyric on the New Versification Addressed to A-- P-- Esq., OCLC 49006177:
      Namby Pamby’s doubly Mild, / Once a Man, and twice a Child; / To his Hanging-Sleeves restor’d / Now he foots it like a Lord; / Now he Pumps his little Wits; / Sh--ing Writes and Writing Sh--s,[sic]
  2. Talk or writing which is weakly sentimental or affectedly pretty.
    • 1892 [1843], Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Life and writings of Addison”, in Lord Macaulay's Essays[1], page 790:
      Another of Addison’s favourite companions was Ambrose Phillipps, a good Whig and a middling poet, who had the honour of bringing into fashion a species of composition which has been called, after his name, Namby-Pamby.
    • 1999, Nicola Diane Thompson, quoting Marie Corelli (c. 1905), Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question, page 246:
      She boasts to Bentley that the Prince of Wales admires her books for the “fearless courage” of her opinions. “He said, ‘There is no namby-pamby nonsense about you – you write with a man’s pen, and I should think you would fight your enemies like a man!’ These words delighted me, for to be ‘namby-pamby’ would be a horror to me,” she writes.




namby-pamby (third-person singular simple present namby-pambies, present participle namby-pambying, simple past and past participle namby-pambied)

  1. To coddle.
    • 2012, Alan Tyers, Who Moved My Stilton?: The Victorian Guide to Getting Ahead in Business:
      While we business men of Britain have little time for this sort of namby-pambying towards the next generation, who are often feckless, tearful, small, dirty or all of the above, there is no doubt that youths have their place in commerce.


  1. ^ Douglas Harper, “namby-pamby”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2021.